50-fold increase in the size of data globally between 2010 and 2020 (infographic)

11 Dec 2012

The amount of data being created in the world is surpassing expectations and a new report by IDC suggests that the digital universe will reach 40 zettabytes by 2020, exceeding earlier forecasts by 5ZB. In terms of the ‘internet of things’, for every seven people on the planet there will be an additional 200 connected devices.

The EMC-backed study expects that 2.8ZB of data will have been created and replicated this year alone.

To put this in perspective, 40ZB of data is equal to 57 times the amount of grains of sand on all the beaches on earth (and apparently there are 7 quintillion, 5 quadrillion grains of sand on the world’s beaches.)

To give even more of an idea of what 40ZB looks like – imagine saving all 40ZB onto the world’s Blu-ray discs and the weight of those discs would be the same as 424 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. By 2020, 40ZB of data will amount to 5,247GB of data per person on the planet.

However, there’s a rub: the amount of data that requires protection in the existing digital universe stands at around one-third, but only 20pc of this vital data is actually protected

By 2020, emerging markets will supplant the developed world as the main producer of the world’s data, with 62pc of data coming from these markets.

The current digital universe is: the US (32pc), Western Europe (19pc), China (13pc), India (4pc) and rest of world (32pc).

By 2020, China will be generating 22pc of the world’s data.

Investment in IT hardware, software, services, telecoms and staff to support the infrastructure of the digital universe will grow by 40pc between 2012 and 2020, suggesting plenty of job security for IT graduates for the foreseeable future.

Big data opportunity

The shift towards big data – the analytical tools to sift through these grains of sand to come up with meaningful opportunities for businesses – is not to be taken for granted.

The majority of the new data being created is largely untagged and unstructured.

In 2012, 23pc of the digital universe was deemed useful if tagged and analysed but only 3pc of the potentially useful stuff has actually been tagged, much less analysed.

By 2020, some 33pc of data in the digital universe (13,000 exabytes) will have big data value if tagged and analysed.

In terms of cloud computing, the number of servers worldwide will grow 10-fold and the amount of information managed by enterprise data centres will grow by a factor of 14.

The kind of data stored in the cloud will also shift radically. By 2020, almost 40pc of data stored in the cloud will be related to entertainment data rather than enterprise data.

Western Europe is currently investing the most to manage the digital universe, spending €1.92 per gigabyte, followed by the US, which is spending €1.37 per gigabyte, China, which is spending €1.01 per gigabyte, and India, which is spending €0.67 per gigabyte.

IDC reckons 40pc of data in the world will be touched by cloud computing.

“As the volume and complexity of data barraging businesses from all angles increases, IT organisations have a choice: they can either succumb to information-overload paralysis, or they can take steps to harness the potential teeming within all of those data streams,” EMC Ireland country manager Jason Ward said.

“This year’s study underscores the massive opportunity that exists for businesses that not only identify the potential benefits of the digital universe, but recognise the importance of navigating that universe with the right balance of technology, data security practices and IT skills,” Ward said.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years